Heard Around Town

City Council finally gets its sexual harassment audit

Years in the making, the audit was meant to address concerns about a hostile work environment after two members received allegations of sexual misconduct.

In early 2021, some council members and candidates who would go on to join the council wrote an open letter calling for the results of consulting firm Redwood Enterprise’s report to be released.

In early 2021, some council members and candidates who would go on to join the council wrote an open letter calling for the results of consulting firm Redwood Enterprise’s report to be released. William Alatriste, Flickr

Nearly four years after the New York City Council laid out almost $200,000 for a consulting firm to audit its internal sexual harassment policies, there’s finally something to show for it. This week, the council shared the results of the audit of its Equal Employment Opportunity-related policies and procedures in the form of a report from the firm Redwood Enterprise that makes recommendations for how the council can provide a safe workplace and combat harassment.

The audit came about in 2019, following staffers raising concerns about the council’s work environment. That year, former Council Member Barry Grodenchik admitted to sexually harassing a council staffer, and a year later, ex-Council Member Andy King was expelled over harassment and discrimination charges, along with ethics violations.

In early 2021, some council members and candidates who would go on to join the council wrote an open letter asking what was taking so long, and calling for the results of the report to be released.

The report that was shared with council members and staff this week is dated July 2022, and includes seven broad recommendations such as “prompt corrective remedial action” when harassment has occurred, with smaller steps to implement them, like creating and sharing a comprehensive code of conduct to clarify the standards for taking action against violators.

A council spokesperson said that a majority of what’s recommended in the report has been implemented or is in process. That includes enlisting a third-party to conduct the regular discrimination and harassment climate survey required by council rules. The email to council staff that shared the new audit also shared the results of the 2020-2021 climate survey (which was conducted by a third-party research firm). According to that survey, the vast majority of respondents were aware of the council’s Anti-Discrimination & Harassment Policy and how to report violations. But while 64% of respondents said they believe that policy is enforced in a fair manner, 19% said they disagreed and 17% said they were unsure.

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